How To Get Along In Hollywood

by Irene Dunne

With a slight touch of temper, Irene Dunne denies that you have to be crazy to get along in Hollywood. She won´t even admit that it helps!

If you want to get along in Hollywood they say, "See a psychiatrist often and get your sanity restored."

At least that's the general impression in these parts. But I've lived here sixteen years and haven't had to see a psychiatrist yet. As far as I'm concerned, anyone can get along her - if he wants to!

All right - someone is about to say, "But of course Irene gets on well. Why shouldn't she? After all she is aloof from the town and completely removed from the rest of us."

That's ridiculous.

Yet it's always been my biggest problem as far as living in Hollywood is concerned. People refuse to believe I don't live in an ivory tower. That I don't close my door and say, "There, I'm free from Hollywood."

Now, I'm not a quiet little mouse. But ever since the first day I arrived in this town, the general impression has been that I'm like a queen holding court on chosen days. I'll never forget what happened when I arrived here sixteen years ago. The studio got me a nice quiet room in a hotel overlooking a pretty garden. It was so quiet I almost lost my mind. I'd been used to excitement in New York and I was bored stiff. I still don't like quiet rooms. Or too much quiet of any kind.

People have also said that I can't be used as a fair example of Hollywood living since I keep my private life so completely seperate from my career. That sounds as so I had discovered the secret of the atomic bomb. Well, it's hardly as world shaking as all that. Frankly, I have never known where private life starts and a career begins. The idea that I close the door on Hollywood when I leave the studio at 6 in the evening is ridiculous. It's not possible to forget pictures. Anyone who works in them thinks of them constantly.

I have, of course tried to tone down the influence of my career on my private life - that I admit. I try to avoid making big decisions after coming home from the studio. With the hours I have to keep on a picture, I'm too tired to think out things logically. In the same way, I steer clear of all matters that might upset me. I use weekends for such mental gymnastics.

This may all seem all too simple and Pollyannish, but it works. At least it has for me - and don't forget I made five pictures a year when I first came here. Few stars make as many these days. So far as I'm concerned, a star's life is as private as she wants it to be - no matter how busy she is in pictures!

I've heard a lot of arguments about the difficulty of getting along in Hollywood, but the chief one is that it's hard to be normal here because every star in the business is so self-centered.

Irene, here with husband Dr.Fancis Griffin, has been getting along famously in Hollywood for sixteen years
Irene, here with husband Dr.Francis Griffin, has been getting along famously in Hollywood for sixteen years

Well, that's true. We are self-centered. We have to be. For example, once I had a little bump on my nose. The cameraman couldn't shoot me at all, so the picture had to close down and the studio lost thousands of dollars while I was off for four days. Naturally, this little bump became terribly important to me because it had suddenly become such a big thing.

But just because you have to be self-centered doesn't mean we have to make a career of yapping about the great "I". Even stars can use a bit of self-analysis to advantage. And it doesn't hurt any of us to remember that Hollywood isn't at all impressed by anyone who has the fantastic illusion that the town must revolve around him.

I've had several lessons about getting along in Hollywood, but my biggest came a short time after I got here. Four other people had come with me. One day I found they were no longer here. I knew the case of one of these four. She had been given a wonderful contract, but she was so impressed with herself that she became a prima donna. She assumed the role of a star right off. She made excessive demands on her studio and became generally disliked. I learned from that the value of cooperating with others. I realized I was only one cog in a big piece of machinery, and I acted accordingly. You may laugh of the idea of the good will of others in Hollywood, but it's no laughing matter if you don't have it.

That incident taught me something else too - the value of common sense. Those who are born with it should thank their mothers every day. Those who aren't should go out and take some long lessons in it. There are a few stars who consider themselves as sitting on high pedestal looking down on the masses below. If the only would realize that their departure tomorrow would upset absolutely nothing, they might wind up as good citizens of Hollywood instead of acute pains in the neck.

So - what are the little banana peels stars can slip on so easily as they face the problem of "getting along" in Hollywood? No one ever called me an oracle, but you can't help noticing things if you keep your eyes open.

For one thing, stars often forget that they're in the public eye - and fail act accordingly. It gets tiresome living in a glass cage, I know, but that's part of our life. Hollywood is like any small town except that every move we make is put under a microscope, talked about, analyzed  - and PRINTED. We have to watch the kind of publicity we give out. There are some stars who must have read too many fairy tales when they were younger. They set out as daring adventurers, who care for nothing but the gay life. But they succeed only in injuring Hollywood and the people in it. They aren't interested in the fact that whenever they kick up dirt, the dirt rubs off on every one of us.

"Getting along" included picking up a Norwegian accent for I Remember Mama. Here she studies with Judith Sater
"Getting along" includes picking up a Norwegian accent for "I Remember Mama". Here she studies with Judith Sater

Almost as bad as the headline hunters are the gossips. Hollywood is fond of gushing chit-chat as any other town. In fact, one of the choicest occupations here is ripping reputations into pieces. Gossip may warm the cockles of a few misplaced hearts, but before long the gabbers get in the neck of themselves. Stars should be more careful of their confidences, since anyone who makes a career of trading sly bon mots and hushed "Did you hears?" won't find Hollywood a healthy place.

Social functions are the perfect breeding grounds for the gossip and their cohorts. And society certainly plays a big part in the matter of getting along in Hollywood. I never accept, nilly-willy, every invitation I receive. Parading about in the latest gowns and making dull platitudes for an entire evening doesn't constitute social success in my book. I never accept an invitation at all unless I fully intend to return the compliment.

Yet some stars believe they must be seen everywhere to stay in the social swim. Others feel the must invite important people in their homes. But I've found that the social butterflies in Hollywood spend all their time flitting about and never succeed in landing anywhere. Friends are necessary if you're to get along in any place, but trading on mere Hollywood "names" isn't the best way to win friends and influence people.

Getting along in Hollywood is a large subject, and I've tried to hit only the high spots. But I still maintain it all depends on how we conduct ourselves, the kinds of examples we set.

One thing I'm sure of  - if we can't make the grade here, we certainly can't make it anywhere either!


(Motion Picture, February 1948)  



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